Guest Speakers

Opening Speech

December 3rd, 2020 via Google Meet

Ethical Musings on Farm and Food Futures

Kirill O. Thompson

Taiwan National University


Kirill O. Thompson teaches at National Taiwan University (Dept. of Foreign Langs. and Lit.). Major fields: Chinese philosophy, e.g. Confucianism, Daoism, etc., Western philosophy, e.g. Existentialism, early Analytic philosophy (Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein), early Greek philosophy, Hume, Kant, etc. Ethics: 20th century metaethics, Confucian ethics, agricultural ethics, food ethics and related areas. Philosophical literature: Lucretius, Thoreau, Dostoyevsky. Recently published on agricultural ethics in Chinese perspective; agrarianism; agrarianism as a way to sustainability and resilience; traditional Chinese agrarianism, etc. Co-edited with Paul Thompson: Agricultural Ethics in East Asian Perspective: A Transpacific Dialogue: (Springer, 2018). Keynoted the 41st Annual Research Conference at the U. of Guam on "Facing Climate Change: Changing Hearts and Minds" (March 2020). Founding member: Humanities for the Environment (

Speech Abstract...

   While considering farm and food futures, we need to keep the meaning of farming and food in mind. When contemplating the wonders of food science for palate and health, we have to recall issues of distribution and fairness-- feeding the many. As growing populations and markets drive farmers to expand operations and squeeze ecosystems, we seek balance and equilibrium; but, how to have sustainability in the food chain while maintaining ecological resilience?

   On a recent trip, I saw examples of early humanity’s reverence for nature and the spirits of fertile places food was grown. We should not look ahead just to flavorful, low-cal lab concoctions that please the palate, but stay mindful that food production depends on nature and reflects humanity’s rootedness in nature. And, what about automated AI-managed farms with robots driving tractors and performing toilsome tasks? The problem is that factory-scale farms, worked by low-paid hands, cause severe environmental damage; the owners/ managers do not spend time in the fields, feel the soil, assess ecological impact. They don’t look at their livestock close-up. Farm robots represent not just efficiency and freedom from drudgery but added-alienation of farm operators from the ecosystem, from their land itself. 


   We face a dilemma: on one hand, greater efficiency, less waste, and more output are needed in the food chain to supply the market and feed the world; on the other, the food chain must be made more environmentally and climate friendly. Importantly, marginal lands need to be reserved for wildlife. As people shift to more plant-based foods, less farm acreage will be required and fewer greenhouse gases produced. As population growth slows, demand will level off. Large farms will remain necessary; but it will be the sustainable, organic family farms that promise ecological resilience. 

Keynote Speech

December 11th, 2020 via Google Meet

Agriculture and Food Ethics: Is It Time to Go Back to Basics?

Paul B. Thompson

Michigan State University


Paul B. Thompson holds the W.K. Kellogg Chair in Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University, where he serves on the faculty in the departments of Philosophy, Community Sustainability and Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics. He received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and has held posts at Texas A&M University and Purdue University. Thompson’s research and teaching has focused on ethical and philosophical topics in food and agriculture. He is the author or co-author of over two hundred articles in refereed journals or scholarly books. Thompson has served on advisory boards at the U.S. National Research Council, the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, Genome Canada and for numerous academic journals, including Environmental Ethics and Agriculture and Human Values. He was a founding member and second President of the Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society, which awarded him its award for Distinguished Career Contribution in Research in 2013. 

Speech Abstract...


Food Safety or National Security? : The Impact of Global Political Changes on Local Food Systems in the Post Pandemic Era

Wei-Chi Chang

National Tsing Hua University


Wei-Chi Chang serves on the faculty as an associate professor in the Department of Environmental and Cultural Resources, National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan. She received her Ph.D. from Chiba University, Japan, in 2004. Wei-Chi’s teaching and research have focused on food sovereignty, food education, and Taiwanese indigenous food culture. She has served on the Advisory Committee of Right to Food and Health at Yilan County Government. She has assisted local small farms to establish an organic farmers' market-the Breeze Market- during the period she served as the Advisory Committee at Kaohsiung County Government. As a board of Homemakers United Foundation, she has also drafted the Basic Act on food education with members of the Foundation. The bill is now under consideration by the Legislative Yuan, Taiwan, R.O.C.

Speech Abstract...

   The coronavirus COVID-19 has caused not only public health problems but also brought socio-economic shocks as well as the food crisis due to the lockdown policy or international political relation changes.

   Many reports on Covid-19 have discussed the public health problems, but they have paid much less attention to food sovereignty that is affected by political changes after the pandemic. This speech will take Taiwan’s move to lift bans on U.S. pork and beef imports as an example to discuss how the post-pandemic political changes impact local food systems and what food ethics issues can be related to.

   The coronavirus has exacerbated a new cold war because international societies began to hold China accountable for spreading coronavirus. The deterioration of U.S.-China relations and the intensified arms competition in Asia has put Taiwan, located at an important position on the first island chain, in an awkward position. Under this background, in late August, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen announced that Taiwan would ease import restrictions on U.S. beef and pork that has additive ractopamine to make the meat leaner. Since ractopamine is forbidden to use in any animal products in Taiwan, the restrictions for importing ractopamine- contained meat from the U.S. has been an issue of contention for nearly 20 years. It has been regarded as a deciding measure to strengthen TW-US relations such as the resumption of TIFA (Trade and Investment Framework Agreement) and arms sales to Taiwan. Facing the complex post-pandemic political economy, Taiwanese people stuck in a dilemma between food security and national security.

   In contrast to Westerners, Taiwanese consumers consume larger quantities of haslet than pork, so they are more concerned about the safety of pork containing ractopamine. As a dietary therapy in Taiwan, women may consume kidneys in large amounts, especially during their postpartum recovery. However, organs tend to have higher concentrations of ractopamine than lean meat.

   The other concern is that the importation might impact the small local black pig farmers in Taiwan. Statistics from the Council of Agriculture 2020, the registered pig farms are less than 7000. 12% are small farms and are raising native black pigs interbred with foreign breeds during the Japanese ruling period. Farmers who fed leftover food add protein or other nutrients to black pigs for centuries. The leftover food recycling has been institutionalized into a cradle-to-cradle system in Taiwan. This unique feeding culture has many advantages: producing flavorful pork, saving feed cost, and reducing the amount of garbage. It even reflected the spirit of cherishing food of Hakka groups in Taiwan, who are the major groups breading black pigs. They insist that Hakka cuisine must use black pigs raised from leftover food as ingredients.

   Unfortunately, with the continuous impact of African swine fever and the lifting of U.S. pork imports, the government encourages black pig farmers who used food waste to switch to composed feed or just shuttered. Buying for food safety or buying for national security has now become a dilemma for Taiwanese consumers.

   In this speech, I want to emphasize that respecting cultural and environmentally sustainable food production is an ethical way of eating.

Ethical implications of transitioning to 1.5-degree Food Systems

Steven R. McGreevy

Research Institute for Humanity and Nature


Steven R. McGreevy is an associate professor at the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature and has a background in agriculture and rural sustainable development from Kyoto University (Ph.D. 2012). He researches novel approaches to regional revitalization, sustainable agrifood and energy transitions, and the relinking of patterns of food consumption and production through policy and practice. He leads the FEAST project (Lifeworlds of Sustainable Food Consumption and Production: Agrifood Systems in Transition), which maps food systems, analyzes patterns of food consumption, food-related social practices and their socio-cultural meanings, and takes a transdisciplinary approach to explore the realities and potential for sustainable agrifood transition at sites in Asia.

Speech Abstract...

   The climate scientists all agree: only massive decarbonization is going to enable societies to successful reach the 1.5-degree climate goals set in the Paris Climate Agreements. By 2050, 90% of CO2 emissions must vanish from the ledgers and that will entail social change the likes of which there are no historical equivalent. A 1.5-degree society will need to be changed in fundamental ways. At the heart of that change will be a reevaluation of how to meet our most basic needs: food, water, energy, shelter. Central to that process will be the reconfiguration of food systems and the many and myriad ways food interacts with our institutions, work, and lifestyles, as well as how food forms new relationships with place, values, and ethics.

   In a 1.5-degree food system, what changes? From the production side, a shift to agroecological, local regional, self-reliant food systems seems inevitable—there simply isn’t any way to keep the industrial food system within environmental limits, let alone tame it enough to allow for dignified and sufficient access to food where it is needed most. On the consumption side, localized and regional production will bring diverse changes away from the passive image of food consumption to which we have become accustomed. Bioregional economies may flourish with a new sense of agrarianism and work-as-craft-- we can expect lifestyles to shift to greater hybridization, with more involved in food production formally or informally, as a future of small-scale production, farms, and self-provisioning takes root. Through these localized circuits of provisioning, local sovereignty, transparency, and trust will guide new institutions and forms of food governance that are more intimate and immediate than the vast distances and sense of disconnect we feel today.

   Accompanying these changes are alternative values and ethics that shift attention away from the primacy of the individual to the common welfare of interconnected natural and social systems. Sufficiency and what constitutes “enough” (enough production, enough consumption, etc.) will replace the treadmill for greater and greater efficiency. Delineating sufficiency will be an issue of great importance since local production conditions will vary from place to place and definitions of what a happy, healthy, and good life is will be redefined. As a society, fixation on “public sufficiency and private luxury” will need to shift to “public luxury and private sufficiency” as cultures of dépense emerge to celebrate the public sphere. This presentation will examine these notions and the many ways in which alternative values and ethics can play a role in transitioning to 1.5-degree food systems, as well as the feast that can accompany such a transition.

Sustaining the Global Ocean-Human System with Ethical Seafood Value Chains

Mimi E. Lam

University of Bergen


Dr Mimi E. Lam is a Researcher at the Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities, University of Bergen, Norway, where she is leading the project, Managing Ethical Norwegian Seascape Activities (Norwegian Research Council, 2020-2024). She is a contributing expert on the European Commission Joint Research Centre project, Science of Values and Identity in the Political Process and the World Wide Fund for Nature Global Oceans Practice Strategic Outlook report. She recently completed her Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship project on Enhancing Seafood Ethics and Sustainability: A Values- and Ecosystem-based Management Approach (European Commission, 2017-2019). Notably, Dr Lam received the inaugural Conservation Beacon Award (2017) from the Society for Conservation Biology “for pioneering an ethical approach to the conservation of marine resources, both natural and cultural, through interdisciplinary research and community engagement at the science-policy interface.”

Speech Abstract...